Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Winshluss: storming heaven

I've been waiting for this one since it came out in French last year from publishers Les Requins Marteaux. It is French artist Winshluss' (aka Vincent Paronnaud) follow up to his epic and searingly brilliant re-imagining of Pinocchio, the English language edition of which was released by UK publishers Knockabout in 2011, and is probably the best re-telling of anything ever (in all seriousness, though, it's staggeringly good, and you should check it out instantly if you're not familiar with it. Here's a Tumblr photo-set I put together a while back to help you along the way). In God We Trust is another re-telling, this time of the Bible, as Saint Franky Of Assisi guides the reader through various well-known passages in the Old and the New Testaments, although no doubt they'll be much changed from what you may be familiar with. I'll be picking this up on the strength of Pinnochio, and from what I've seen of the art, it looks like Winshluss has once again unleashed his unique drawing demon, but religion can always be a strange subject to take on in satire, because people generally do tend to lean either one way or another. I'm interested to see how it'll play out; expect a lot of parody and irreverence.

Luckily Knockabout were very quick in picking this one up, and it's due for release on the 24th of September:

'Winshluss returns with the hilarious In God We Trust. His multi-levelled retelling of The Bible revises the founding myths of the holy book. We are guided through the maze of the Old and New Testament by St. Franky, with a nose like a strawberry from drinking altar wine and a sceptical attitude. God looks like a retired biker and is a shy and alcoholic seducer, Jesus had a punk phase, Mary is naive and lonely. From the comic book parody (God vs Superman) to the adulterous tragedy, through the story of creation and a study of the disappearance of the dinosaurs to the mystery of the resurrection, the density of the book will leave the reader no respite from the horrors suffered by an inept and inconsistent humanity and the acts of an apathetic, drunk, and jaded divine power.'

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fish: stringing along death

Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli, Nobrow Press

Milo's parents died in a car-crash last summer, and he now lives with his grandparents on the French Riviera. It's the summer after the accident, and his cousins are here to visit, although Milo is still grieving; wondering about death, why it happens, explanations and reasons for it, how it relates to life, the purpose of it. He sees it in everything around him: the dead fish in the stream, the wilting flowers at the table, the shrimp he's eating for dinner. The feeling is that if he could establish meaning for it, he might be better able to understand and process his parents death.

Fish is a shorter comic- 24 pages in length, but the narrative ebb and flow, along with the tone is perfectly judged: the story spooling out naturally, veering into neither mawkish-ness or despair. Milo is similarly effectively etched, with Bagnanrelli providing the reader a grasp on the young boy with ease: still raw with grief, smart, relatively taciturn, but also sorting through his emotions and thoughts- although this isn't so much about resolutions and closure as it is about being within that zone, that experience, itself.

Bagnanrelli's art stuns here; she has a clear, clean style that resides between the geometric and almost visceral- and by that I mean I often associate a sense of tactile-ness in the way she renders things- generally natural elements, like the fluffiness of a cloud. All else will be still and calm but that cloud will look like if you touch it, wisps of cotton will cling to your fingers. The problem I have always had with more formalistic art -or what I deem as such: precise, geometric styles- is that it closes off entry for the reader. Chris Ware's comics, for example, while undeniably beautiful, intricate and skilled don't allow you to imprint or connect with them at all- it's all Ware maintaining control and dictating another sad story. Bagnarelli shares an ability with Jon McNaught to convey a shifting tautology of stillness that can suggest tension and serenity equally, the straightness of her lines and shapes offset by the softer facets of her colouring and the traditionally expressive. Even on the very first page you get the two sides to Bagnarelli's style in the framing top and bottom wide panels: the first ruled, geometric, linear; the second with fluffy, almost furry candy-flossed trees.

It's a truly gorgeous book: the fine-lined vistas here, the dappled leaves, sun-drenched scenes that encapsulate the heat of summer- she conveys light beautifully, sun-light reflected in water, streaking through the trees. Her colour palette is beautiful; in a book set ocean-side she never once uses blue or yellow, sticking instead to a largely purple/pink/red scheme that manages to be less harsh, more contained. The most impressive thing about Fish is the careful weighting and thought obvious in each component and yet bought together seamlessly; artless in execution to create something which is neither answer nor question, but existent in its complexity and subtlety, and the richer for it.

Titan to publish Druillet's 6 Journeys of Lone Sloane in 2015

A while back, I asked Oliver if he owned anything by Philippe Druillet, after seeing some mind-blowing pages of his on Tumblr (where else?). Being of impeccable taste, and unimpeachable integrity, Oliver informed me he did indeed, possess several works by Druillet and was happy (sort of) to let me borrow them. I'm yet to get around to doing much more than flicking through them and gawping slack-jawed- but even a cursory glance at these pages establishes Druillet as somewhat of a forgotten master of the medium. One of the founding figures of Humanoids along with Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Bernard Farkas and Moebius, Druillet's more recently been involved in film and opera than anything else, but at the very least, you should know his name- I find it inconceivable that he's not talked about more, or am I simply not reading the right sort of things? 

Anyway, the books Oliver lent me (pictured below) are Lone Sloane Delirius, Lone Sloane Chaos, and Yragael Urm. Yragael Urm especially: mind-blowingly wow. There's some traditional comics in there (in terms of text-boxes, layout), but the majority of it is huge, stonking painted double page spreads- horizontal and vertical- iconic, alien, and primitive- gods and monsters, the architecture vast and visionary- astounding, astounding work. Pages that make you feel small via the sheer scale, imagination, and energy coursing on them- his colours and composition are mesmerisingly exquisite . The Lone Sloane books incorporate more linear comics, but with a dizzying range of innovative panelling and layouts, and the spreads are still there.

I'm going to get around to reading and writing about these soon (briefly discussing them here has got me fired up to do so!), but the thrust here is that I came across some exciting news on the Eurocomics USA Invasion, which informs us that Titan will be bringing Druillet back into English language print, with a hardback release of The 6 Journeys of Lone Sloane in March next year. The book was previously published in English by NBM in 1991, and, I believe, the six short stories within it are actually contained in the edition of Delirius above. Both books are out of print, but copies are still in circulation on Amazon and Ebay for around £15-£30. Journeys was originally  published in 1972, Delirius in 1973, with Chaos following in 2000. The new edition from Titan will, hopefully (as is always the hope) introduce new readers to Druillet's work. Here's the brief solicitation blurb for the book:

'800 years after a catastrophic event called the "Great Fear",  Lone Sloane, a troubled space traveler, is captured by an entity called "He Who Seeks", after his space ship is destroyed. The entity transports him to different dimensions, where he faces a myriad of Lovecraftian challenges!A Sci-Fi Ulysess, forced to endlessly wander through the universe.'

Lone Sloane is Druillet's most famous creation: a tortured galactic wanderer, imbued with mystical powers and traversing a universe he doesn't understand. The six eight-page stories in Journeys serve to introduce the character and his initial wanderings. If, like me, you weren't aware of Druillet's work, mark this as one to look out for- the chances of disappointment are slim.

CAKE announce new mini-comic 'Cupcake' award

I'm not sure when this was announced, but it seems worth covering, for anyone who may have missed it, like me. The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo [CAKE] have announced a new Cupcake Award: 'a juried prize that supports the self-publishing of a new mini-comic by any artist who has not yet had a solo work printed by a publisher.' The winner is given $250 in order to print a new mini-comic, along with a free half table at next year’s CAKE (2015, where their comic will debut), in addition to advice and mentor support from special guest judge Annie Koyama, who will select the winner from 20 finalists. CAKE will promote the winning artist and their comic the lead up to next year’s show. Applications are open now- you can find more details here, and the deadline is August 31st. The award is for newer cartoonists, who have not yet had an individual work published.

'CAKE celebrates the diversity and vitality of Chicago’s indie comics and self-publishing scene, which has a history that stretches back to the mimeographed science fiction fanzines of the 1930s. The Cupcake Award is a means of continuing this tradition by encouraging and nurturing new talent.'

Comics: an expensive hobby

Many moons ago, when I was more interested in fashion than comics, I used to follow a teenage fashion blogger who would dazzle readers with the outfits she put together every few days. As is common practice for fashion blogs, the photo-post would include a break-down of what-I'm-wearing, where the litany of high-end designers- Christian Dior, Fendi, Chloe, Valentino, Balenciaga, Isabel Marant, Maison Martin Margiela, and on and on, quickly made clear that the then still in school 15-year old was operating on a budget and in a world far, far removed from mine and many others. There was an inevitable back-lash at the time; her mum had been involved in the fashion industry in some capacity, both her parents were very, very well off and well-connected- and nepotism aside, the distaste seemed to revolve around the fact that her parents had allocated her money specifically to use to buy for the blog. There was jealousy and envy and ugliness- justified and unjustified- but the takeaway for me was that the thing people were being sold: 'I'm a normal kid throwing stuff together for the fun and love of fashion' was actually 'I'm a kid wearing head-to-toe designer labels in a calculated move to establish a platform for saleability' -the notion of false accessibility.

It's a poor parallel to draw, but it's the one I thought of recently as I photographed another bunch of comics I'd bought. And it juts sort of hit me how annoying I must be- constantly posting photo after photo of all the books I've acquired. The reason I like to share photos of what I've bought, or am reading, is simply because I'm genuinely excited by them, but I've no doubt it can be construed as fucking smug, or come across as 'look what I've got!' (which admittedly, there is an element of sometimes). Because the thing is: comics are expensive. Monthly comics cost £2.99 a pop and collected trades and graphic novels rarely less than £10. So it's either the library, or you have a disposable income.enough pocket money that allows you to buy into your un-cheap hobby. But I'm selfish- I'm not really here to discuss the potential social implications, more than how this relates to me. We live in an exciting time where there's a plethora of good to very good, to excellent work being released every month. Until earlier this month, I worked two jobs, and to be frank, I don't spend a lot of money on much else, apart from to update my wardrobe with whatever it may need now and again. I've always justified spending a lot of money on books, because I don't spend much elsewhere, and books are an investment: they last, they continue to give, they can be passed on. That, and the fact that I've never been much of a saver.

There was a time (before the blog) where I used to buy a lot less. Comics were still a discovery, and I was cautious and tentative in my choices, wanting to know as much as I could about books to ensure they'd be something I wouldn't regret purchasing. But the more I read, the more I learnt; my tastes and knowledge expanded, and suddenly I was aware of all these books and um, I wanted them. I've always been aware of the monetary side of comics- it's one of the reasons I don't buy in issues- you end up paying more for a lesser format (in terms of longevity). In the past year, both writing for the blog- wanting to write about the latest releases for people- and working at the comic book shop exacerbated my already healthy buying habits a good 60%. It's not that I feel guilty for spending, because I work for it and I can spend the money I earn on what I want, but I do feel guilty for what I recognise as spending too much. Coupled with that is the  feeling that as I get older, the idea of saving more has greater appeal, so I made a tight, whittled-down list of the books I consider personal must-have's for the rest of the year:

  • Amulet 6 
  • Sisters  
  • Art-Schooled 
  • Shoplifter
  • Opus 
  • Corto Maltese 
  • Meka
  • Zaya
  • Aama 2
  • Alone 2
  • SAM: After Man
  • Monster 1 and 2
  • The Motherless Oven
  • Snackies
  • Rav
  • Beauty
  • Miss Don't Touch Me
  • Brass Sun
  • The Collector
  • Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue 

That's 20 books. From August to December, that's 4 books per month, which is an easy £50 a month. The only books on that list that are going to be under £10 are Alone and SAM: After Man- maybe Sisters and the new Amulet. And that's without factoring in books I would like to check out, but am happy to wait on: How to be Happy, Bramble, Maddy Kettle, Costume Quest, Station 16, Kill My Mother, Doomboy, the new Pippi, the new Ariol, In A Sense: Lost and Found, and more. In addition to that, I stumble across a lot of zines and self-published work via social media that I buy, or will be recommended some older title I've yet to read, so let's make that about £80 a month. And I'm lucky- the chances are a few of those titles may get sent to me for review by publishers. I don't really have much to compare it to, living in a comics-free zone, but it feels excessive- and I'm starting to notice it more now that I want to put money aside. I guess I'm no longer sure how responsible it makes me buying every book that takes my whim, regardless of merit.

I do a lot of 'go buy this book now!' on this site, and I hope that people know that a) I'm sincere in those endorsements, and b) I don't expect anyone to go buy each and every one of those titles as stupid as that may sound out loud- different titles are going to click with different people. I don't really have a neat resolution or way to wrap this up, and it's definitely not news to anyone that comics are expensive (it is, I think, one of the people feel threatened by the accessibility of online comics- that something could be free and good and available), just some haphazard musings I've been musing. Let me know if you can connect some dots.

Friday, 18 July 2014

James Stokoe's Avengers 100th Anniversary special: preview

Fulfilling two needs with one stone here : nice art for you to get your eyeballs on, and a timely reminder that this slice of awesome comes out this Wednesday and you're going to want one. It's come around quickly; I remember writing about James Stokoe writing and drawing an Avengers 100th Anniversary special as if it were last week (it was April). Marvel have increasingly been looking to more 'indie' creators to tap up for work, including Michel Fiffe, Giannis Milonogiannis and more, and while my interest in the subject matter is nil, it's comics sacrilege not to pick up a Stokoe illustrated comic- and when you take into account he's coloured and written it- well, it's not really a question of choice. If it makes more people look at this comic and buy everything he's done- even better. I mean- look at that title credits page: the font, the colours, the little mini bug-wrapped Avengers...?  

The '100' is a futurespective of the Marvel universe, looking at how things may be for Marvel heroes in the year 2061 (100 years on from the 1961 debut of the Fantastic Four): 'Following the failed Badoon invasion of Earth and America’s disappearance into the Negative Zone, how will the Avengers of 2061 cope?!'

Zine watch: Animated Review Issue #01

Animated Review, featuring Ian Stevenson, Mark Edwards of DR.Me, Nick Alston, Marcus Oakley, Thea Glad, Nicolas Menard, Maclsolm Sutherland, Bottle of Smoke, Kid Acne, Robert Lobel & Jose Miguel Mendez

It's been a looong while since I did a zine watch, and since I'm feeling the need to freshen things up some, here we are. Animated Review is the first, self-titled zine from the folk over at the fantastic Animate Review blog, (which I was introduced to by Andy, as with many a good thing) which curates and collates the funkiest and most interesting animation largely in the form of videos, but also anything related such as comics, games, toys, clothing, zines, art, and so forth. In terms of production zine, they've gone for something simple and manageable- nothing too over-reaching- stapled together recycled paper, with a duck-egg blue thin card cover. The cover works for me- I think their logo- the googly-eyed 'AR' is a strong visual and the central lower placing works fine with the centered title at the top. The perfunctory list of contributors on the cover gives it a retro classifying pamphlet feel.

The idea for the zine is to give contributors a theme and ask them to respond with an illustration- for this inaugural issue artists were told to reinterpret their favourite childhood cartoon characters in their own style: 'The enthusiastic response we received helped highlight the importance of these shows, and the fondness with which they are remembered.' The format is straightforward: left page carrying information about the artist (including website and online details) and the right carrying the illustration. It's a to-the-point unflashy aim- here are some fun, cool pics and if you like the artist's work, this is who they are and where you can find them (that last intended in a non-sinister way). Some of the characters I recognise here: Super Ted, He-Man, the Turtles, Jessica Rabbit- and some I don't, but that doesn't really impact much on the enjoyment of the cartoons. I especially liked Kid Acne's (whose work I love anyway) homage to 'mysterious Cities of Gold' which is very serene, clean and striking.

It's a nice little concept, nothing ground-breaking but executed efficiently and engaging in tone and subject. It could have been improved if there were even a couple of sentences from each artists stating why the cartoon they've chosen had such an impact.That may be something Animated Review look to build upon in future issues; it'll be interesting to see whether they stick with the essentially the same format or switch things up. It's a fun little zine, although I'm not sure it's worth the £4 asking price for what it is- even knocking a pound off that would make it much more accessible and reasonable.

Images, clockwise from left: Robert Lobel, Nicolas Menard, Nick Alston, Kid Acne.

(top image via Animated Review)

News, Views, and Oddities #36

News, Views and Oddities, a fortnightly feature where we link to various bits and bobs which have grabbed our attention, encompassing comics, books, illustration, design and film. Clicking fingers at the ready.

Let's start right, with some Astro Boy meets Godzilla art by Kazu Kibushi- something so serene about that picture, and I love the green and gold.

This is a lovely bunch of paintings from Scott C. in his Sonny the Fox series, which are spread over a couple of exhibitions currently taking place; I believe they're available to buy online.

Tom Spurgeon has the complete list of all the Harvey Award nominees; award shows in general are weird, but that list is weirder than normal. Spurgeon offers an explanation as to why: 'Because the Harveys use a two-tiered full nominations process and the first step of that can be laborious, they've long been susceptible to campaigns for nominations such as an energetic company employee or two making sure that everyone at the office gets their ballot in. This tends to skew things towards companies or project that have this kind of motivated person in proximity.'

If you're still curious about Emily Carroll's book, the whole first story(!), 'Our Neighbour's House'  is available for you to read for free here, but seriously just go buy the book- it's superb. 

One of the finest gentlemen in comics, and my good friend, Steve Morris, has launched a new comics writing website, The Spire. Steve writes about really different comics than I do and yet still stuuf that's off the beaten track a bit; I like that about comics.

A reminder that today is the last week-day of the Impossible Books sale- comic bargains to be had. 

Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotusba comics are my happy place- unadulterated, unaffected joy which never fails to make me smile. I loved these images produced for a Yotusba calender, placing Azuma's illustrations of her adorable protagonist in the sun-drenched photography of Miho Kakuta- the simple photo collage isn't something I'd consider but it works perfectly to capture the tone of the book and it's titular character.

Whit Taylor's been doing a fantastic series of wide-ranging diary comics called Saturn Return, which you should bookmark instantly.

Bryan Lee O'Malley talks to Emily Yoshida as Seconds releases- found that an interesting, and pretty open read.

Brandon Graham draws those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it's as good and as cool as you'd expect from him.

A Tumblr blog collating video-game backgrounds and scenery.

One of the books I've been most looking forward to this year is Jamie Coe's debut comic book, Art Schooled, so was really pleased to be able to present a first look over at Publisher's Weekly, where you can read and see more.

Comics you should read:

An eye on: S.A.M. After Man

Here's another book I'm looking forward to later this year: S.A.M vol 1 After Man, an all ages BD translation from Cinebook in that nice large album format. I was drawn to this because, um, robots, and the superficial Iron Giant/kindly robot with a soul leanings, but upon further investigation, discovered it's been written by Richard Marazano, the author of the superb Chimpanzee Complex trilogy- those books are an absolute must-read if you haven't gotten around to them yet. I seem to remember reading that Marazono was encouraged into the medium by Moebius himself, who introduced him to several publishers- initially as an artists, but he's made his name as a writer. S.A.M is illustrated by Shang Xiao, a Chinese illustrator and film maker, and comic-book artist for the French market.

S.A.M is set to be a four volume series- the books are being published in their original French by Darguad, where the series is at it's mid-point with 2 volumes released so far. The story is set around a group of kids and teens who live underground in the sewers, after the majority of the human race has been exterminated by huge, sentient killer robots that still scour the surface looking to eliminate any sign of life. The kids venture to the surface now and gain to make scavenger runs for food and supplies, and it's on one such trip that they come face-to-face with one of the massive humanoid robots. However, the encounter doesn't quite go the way they imagined, as this machine -emblazoned with words S.A.M across its front- is unlike the others.

Pooled together a few pages from the French edition to show off (how good, right?), as there's nothing up on the Cinebook website yet, but the book is due for release in October, so if you do want it, remember to order it at your local comic book store- Cinebook are in Previews, which means their books are orderable. As I've mentioned before, I like to support them, simply because they do such a fantastic job bringing great French comics to a wider audience, i.e. me and in their original, album-sized format, too.

N.B. I feel I should clarify what I mean by support, after something Sarah Horrocks said resonated with me about supporting work and not allegiance to particular companies, to rephrase it shoddily. What I mean here is a) buy the book because it looks like it's going to be bloody good, and b) secondary purpose is also to make people more aware of Cinebook who consistently put out really solid and great books and yet seem to be flying under a lot of people's radars. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Mini-comics of the Month Club: get a taste of the Australian comics scene

I'd seen this floating around Twitter before Andrew Fulton wrote in to tell me about it, and it looks and sounds pretty sweet. Minicomic of the Month Club is a subscription series of Australian mini-comics: 12 mini-comics produced by 12 different artists over the course of the year, with 1 mailed out to you each month. I believe this is the second year Fulton is running the subscription service, which costs $28 (Australian dollars) if you live in Australia or New Zealand and $40 (inclusive of shipping) if you live anywhere else in the world. Artists making comics this year are: Carla McRae, Sarah McNeil, Andrew Fulton, Ben Juers, Marijka Gooding, Nicky Minus, Michael Fikaris, Rafferty Amor, Bailey Sharp, the Seven seas, Neale Blanden, and George Rex & Owen Heitmann. If you click through to the Minicomic of the Month Club page -bit of a mouthful, that!- you can see example of each artist's work- none of whom I have heard of, and all of which look really attractive; a lot of the styles are just really what appeals to me aesthetically. I'm not very familiar with Australian comics at all, and the price on this  package is incredibly cheap -even more so when you consider they're being shipped out individually to you each month and the cost of that- so I'm going to sign up as a bit of entry-point to the scene.

Subscriptions are limited to 300, and you can sign up for the package until the 31st July 2014 (Australian time). Minicomics of the Month have teamed up with Dan Berry's Make It Then Tell Everybody podcast to offer one person the opportunity to win a full-year subscription: simply go here and enter your email to take part. A winner will be chosen at random on the 20th of July.

Neale Blanden
Sarah Mcneil